A variety of broad U.S. employment-related measures for veterans have been instituted since 1940, when the Selective Training and Service Act was authorized, guaranteeing re-employment rights to everyone who left a position to join the Armed Forces, the most well-known being the G.I. Bill of Rights. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it in 1944, and it has contributed more than any other program in history to the welfare of veterans, training, to some degree, 7.8 million individuals. Over the years many additional acts and bills have also been passed regarding veterans and training and employment, built around whichever war U.S. service people were engaged in at the time. In 1974, VETS was established, under the Employment Training Administration (ETA) umbrella, as an office to focus specifically on education and training for veterans, and ten years later it became an independent agency, with its own Assistant Secretary. Since then, it has been one of several government units, including the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Small Business Bureau, addressing and executing improvement of employment, training and other work-force issues and scenarios for veterans.
President Obama has nominated an Army veteran who has been a state-level labor official to serve as the next Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (VETS). Keith Kelly, who was awarded a Bronze Star for his service with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, will serve as chief of VETS, an agency in the Department of Labor that provides resources and services to help veterans locate grants, training and employment opportunities, and to assure their right to return to a job after completion of military service. If confirmed by the Senate, Kelly will succeed Ray Jefferson, an Army veteran who served in the position from August 7, 2009, to July 26, 2011.
Born in Red Lodge, Montana, circa 1945, Kelly earned a B.S. in Agriculture Business and an M.S. in Economics and Agriculture Economics at Montana State University.
He served as director of the Montana Agriculture Department from 1983 to 1989, and as head of the Arizona Agriculture Department from 1990 to 1997. He served in the federal government from 1997 to 2001 as administrator of the Farm Service Agency and executive vice president of the Commodity Credit Corporation at the United States Department of Agriculture. Back in the private sector after the 2000 elections, Kelly was president of his own firm, Kelly & Associates, LLC, from 2001 to 2002.
He returned to Montana state government to serve as administrator for the Unemployment Insurance Division of the Montana Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) from 2002 to 2004. He has served as commissioner of the DLI since January 2005, when Governor Brian Schweitzer appointed him. Kelly’s grandfather, John Thomas Kelly, served as commissioner of DLI’s predecessor agency, Montana’s Department of Agriculture, Labor and Industry, from 1939-1941.
Kelly served as chair and vice chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies from 2009 to 2010.
A Democrat, Kelly donated $500 to the Democratic National Committee in 2004 and $250 to the Montana Democratic Central Committee in 2009.
President Obama chose an injured veteran to head the Department of Labor ’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), which provides resources and services to help veterans locate grants, training and employment opportunities, and to assure their right to return to a job after completion of military service. Raymond M. Jefferson was confirmed by the Senate on August 7, 2009.He resigned on July 26, 2011, following a corruption investigation.